Monday, June 25, 2007

The Great American (non)Debate on Iraq

Insightful piece by Kurt Andersen in NYMag.

Andersen writes:
The Bush administration and its irreducible hard core of supporters, refusing to cop to their own failures, accuse critics of “trying to ensure that there’s failure in Iraq,” as House Republican leader John Boehner said recently of the opposition. Everyone else blames the Bush administration for its warmongering deceptions and war-fighting incompetence—but pretty much leaves it at that, either changing the subject or imagining that rage at the masters of war and a willingness to withdraw U.S. forces right away lets them off the hook. Among the Democratic presidential candidates, the exchanges devolve to inconsequential gotchas—which candidate opposed the war earliest, whether Hillary Clinton should “apologize” for voting to authorize it in 2002, whether de-funding votes in May by Clinton and Barack Obama are sufficient proof of their antiwar bona fides. And the Republican candidates would prefer not to talk about it.
The lone exception, though not a front runner is Joe Biden, who whether you agree with his plan on Iraq, he at least offers a different strategy--not cut and run nor stay and bleed.

Andersen again:
The neocons and the lefties have in common a shrugging callousness to the horrors their simple plans unintentionally enable in Iraq: eliminating the Baathist dictatorship uncorked a civil war, and eliminating U.S. troops may well turn it into a much bigger one—but it’s the Iraqis to blame for the chaos and murder, not us.
And this scary forecast:
A more apt analogy, I worry, is the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the 1979 invasion, the Soviets maintained a force of between 80,000 and 100,000 troops in a Muslim country of some 20 million people divided along ethnic, tribal, and sectarian lines. As General Petraeus said the other day, “I think historically, counterinsurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years.” The Red Army left Afghanistan after nine years and 14,000 killed in a counterinsurgency war against a mix of indigenous fighters and the foreign jihadi who became the core of Al Qaeda. And six months later, the Soviet empire began to dissolve.
Leading to the correct conclusion:
In other words, they were damned if they stayed and damned if they left, and so are we. Which should be the starting point of the real debate we need to begin.


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